Page images
PDF
EPUB

I

FATE OF THE RED RACE IN AMERICA:

THE POLICY PURSUED TOWARDS THEM BY GOVERNMENT, AND

THE PRESENT CONDITION OF THE TRIBES WHO HAVE

REMOVED WEST OP THE MISSISSIPPI.*

The removal of the Indian Tribes within our State boundaries, to the west of the Mississippi, and their present condition and probable ultimate fate, have been the topic of such frequent speculation, misunderstanding, and may we not add, misrepresentation, within a few years past, both at home and abroad, that we suppose some notice of them, and particularly of the territory they occupy, and the result, thus far, of their experiment in self-government, drawn from authentic sources, may prove not unacceptable to the public.

The nomadic and hunter states of society never embraced within themselves the elements of perpetuity. They have ever existed, indeed, like a vacuum in the system of nature, which is at every moment in peril, and subject to be filled up and destroyed by the in-rushing of the surrounding element. Civilisation is that element, in relation to non -agricultural and barbaric tribes, and the only question with respect to their continuance as distinct communities has been, how long they could resist its influence, and at what particular era this influence should change, improve, undermine, or destroy them. It is proved by history, that two essentially different states of society, with regard to art and civilisation, cannot both prosperously exist together, at the same time. The one which is in the ascendant will absorb and destroy the other. A wolf and a lamb are not more antagonistical in the system of organic being, than civilisation and barbarism, in the great ethnological impulse of man's diffusion over the globe. In this impulse, barbarism may temporarily triumph, as we see it has done by many striking examples in the history of Asia and Europe. But such triumphs have been attended with this remarkable result, that they have, in the end, reproduced the civilisation which they destroyed. Such, to quote no other example, was the effect of the prostration of the Roman type of civilisation by the warlike and predatory tribes of Northern Europe. Letters and Christianity were both borne down, for a while, by this irresistible on-rush; but they were thereby only the more deeply implanted

• Democratic Review, 1844.

in the stratum of preparing civilisation; and in due time, like the grain that rots before it reproduces, sprang up with a vigor and freshness, which is calculated to be enduring, and to fill the globe.

Civilisation may be likened to an absorbent body, placed in contact with an anti-absorbent, for some of the properties of which it has strong affinities. It will draw these latter so completely out, that, to use a strong phrase, it may be said to eat them up. Civilisation is found to derive some of the means of its perfect development from letters and the arts, but it cannot permanently exist without the cultivation of the soil. It seems to have been the fundamental principle on which the species were originally created, that they should derive their sustenance and means of perpetuation from this industrial labor. Wherever agricultural tribes have placed themselves in juxtaposition to hunters and erratic races, they have been found to withdraw from the latter the means of their support, by narrowing the limits of the forest and plains, upon the wild animals of which, both carnivorous and herbivorous, hunters subsist. When these have been destroyed, the grand resources of these hunters and pursuers have disappeared. Wars, the introduction of foreign articles or habits of injurious tendency, may [accelerate the period of their decline—a result which is still further helped forward by internal dissensions, and the want of that political foresight by which civil nations exist. But without these, and by the gradual process of the narrowing down of their hunting grounds, and the conversion of the dominions of the bow and arrow to those of the plough, this result must inevitably ensue. There is no principle of either permanency or prosperity in the savage state.

It is a question of curious and philosophic interest, however, to observe the varying and very unequal effects, which different types of civilisation have had upon the wild hordes of men with whom it has come into contact. And still more, perhaps, to trace the original effici ency, or effeminacy of the civil type, in the blood of predominating races, who have been characterized by it. In some of the European stocks this type has remained nearly stationary since it reached the chivalric era. In others, it had assumed a deeply commercial tone, and confined itself greatly to the drawing forth, from the resources of new countries, those objects which invigorate trade. There is no stock, having claims to a generic nationality, in which the principle of progress has, from the outset, been so strongly marked, as in those hardy, brave and athletic tribes in the north of Europe, for whom the name of Teutons conveys, perhaps, a more comprehensive meaning, than the comparatively later one of Saxons. The object of this race appears continually to be, and to have been, to do more than has previously been done; to give diffusion and comprehension to designs of improvement, and thus, by perpetually putting forth new efforts, on the globe, to carry on man to nis highest destiny. The same impulsive aspirations of the spirit of progress, the same energetic onwardness of principle which overthrew Rome, overthrew, at another period, the simple institutions of the woad-stained Britons; and, whatever other aspect it bears, we must attribute to the same national energy the modern introduction of European civilisation into Asia.

[graphic]

When these principles come to be applied to America, and to be tested by its native tribes, we shall clearly perceive their appropriate and distinctive effects. In South America, where the type of chivalry marked the discoverers, barbarism has lingered among the natives, without being destroyed, for three centuries. In Canada, which drew its early colonists exclusively from the feudal towns and seaports, whose inhabitants had it for a maxim, that they had done all that was required of good citizens, when they had done all that had been previously done, the native tribes have remained perfectly stationary. With the exception of slight changes in dress, and an absolute depreciation in morals, they are essentially at this day what they were in the respective eras of Cartier and Champlain. In the native monarchies of Mexico and Peru, Spain overthrew the gross objects of idolatrous worship, and intercalated among these tribes the arts and some of the customs of the 16th century. With a very large proportion of the tribes but little was attempted beyond military subjugation, and less accomplished. The seaboard tribes received the ritual of the Romish church. Many of those in the inte rior, comprehending the higher ranges of the Andes and Cordilleras, remain to this day in the undisturbed practice of their ancient superstitions and modes of subsistence. It is seen from recent discoveries, that there are vast portions of the interior of the country, unknown, unexplored and undescribed. We are just, indeed, beginning to comprehend the true character of the indigenous Indian civilisation of the era of the discovery. These remarks are sufficient to show how feebly the obligations of letters and Christianity have been performed, with respect to the red men, by the colonists of those types of the early European civilisation, who rested themselves on feudal tenures, military renown, and an ecclesiastical system of empty ceremonies.

It was with very different plans and principles that North America was colonized. We consider the Pilgrims as the embodiment of the true ancient Teutonic type. Their Marie and Brennus were found in the pulpit and in the school-room. They came with high and severe notions of civil and religious liberty. -It was their prime object to sustain themselves, not by conquest, but by cultivating the soil. To escape an ecclesiastical tyranny at home, they were willing to venture themselves in new climes. But they meant to triumph in the arts of peace. They embarked with the Bible as their shield and sword, and they laid its principles at the foundation of all their institutions, civil, literary, industrial, and ecclesiastic. They were pious and industrious themselves, and they designed to make the Indian tribes so. They bought their lands and paid for them, and proceeded to establish friendly neighborhoods among the tribes. Religious truth, as it is declared in the Gospel, was the fundamental principle of all their acts. In its exposition and daily use, they followed no interpretations of councils at variance with its plain import. This every one was at liberty to read.

[graphic]

Placed side by side with such an enlightened and purposed race, what had the priests of the system of native rites and superstitions to expect? There could be no compromise of rites—no partial conformity—no giving up a part to retain the rest—as had been done in the plains of Central America, Mexico and Yucatan. No toleration of pseudo-paganism, as had been done on the waters of the Orinoco, the Parana and the Paraguay. They must abandon the system at once. The error was gross and total. They must abjure it. They had mistaken darkness for light; and they were now offered the light. They had worshipped Lucifer instead of Immanuel. This the tribes who spread along the shores of the North Atlantic were told, and nothing was held back. They founded churches and established schools among them. They translated the entire Bible, and the version of David's Psalms, and the Hymns of Dr. Watts, into one of their languages. Two types of the human race, more fully and completely antagonistical, in all respects, never came in contact on the globe. They were the alpha and omega of the ethnological chain. If, therefore, the Red Race declined, and the white increased, it was because civilisation had more of the principles of endurance and progress than barbarism; because Christianity was superior to paganism; industry to idleness; agriculture to hunting; letters to hieroglyphics; truth to error. Here lie the true secrets of the Red Men's decline.

There are but three principal results which, we think, the civilized world could have anticipated for the race, at the era of the discovery. 1. They might be supposed to be subject to early extermination on the coasts, where they were found. A thousand things would lead to this, which need not be mentioned. Intemperance and idleness alone were adequate causes. 2. Philanthropists and Christians might hope to re claim them, either in their original positions on the coasts, or in agricultural communities in adjacent parts. 8. Experience and forecast might indicate a third result, in which full success should attend neither of the foregoing plans, nor yet complete failure. There was nothing, exactly, in the known history of mankind, to guide opinion. A mixed condition of things was the most probable result. And this, it might be anticipated, would be greatly modified by times and seasons, circumstances and localities, acting on particular tribes. Nothing less could have been expected but the decline and extinction of some tribe, whilst the removal of others, to less exposed positions, would be found to tell upon their improvement. The effects of letters and Christianity would necessarily be slow; but they were effects, which the history of discovery and civilisation, in other parts of the world, proved to be effective and practical. What was this mixed condition to eventuate in ?—how long was it to continue? Were the tribes to exercise sovereign political jurisdiction over the tracts they lived on? Were they to submit to the civilized code, and if so, to the penal code only, or also to the civil? Or, if not, were they to exist by amalgamation with the European stocks, and thus contribute the elements of a new race? These, and many other questions, early arose, and were often not a little perplexing to magistrates, legislatures, and governors. It was evident the aboriginal race possessed distinctive general rights, but these existed contemporaneously, or intermixed with the rights of the discoverers. How were these separate rights to be defined? How were the weak to be protected, and the strong to be restrained, at points beyond the ordinary pale of the civil law? If a red man killed a white, without the ordinary jurisdiction of the courts, could he be seized as a criminal? And if so, were civil offences, committed without the jurisdiction of either territory, cognizable in either, or neither? Could there be a supremacy within a supremacy? And what was the limit between State and United States laws? Such were among the topics entering into the Indian policy. It was altogether a mixed system, and like most mixed systems, it worked awkwardly, confusedly, and sometimes badly. Precedents were to be established for new cases, and these were perpetually subject to variation. Legislators, judges, and executive officers were often in doubt, and it required the wisest, shrewdest, and best me/i in the land to resolve these doubts, and to lay down rules, or advice, for future proceeding in relation to the Red Race. It will be sufficient to oear cut the latter remark, to say, that among the sages who ieemed this subject important, were a Roger Williams, a Penn, a Franklin, a Washington, a Jefferson, a Monroe, a Crawford, and a Calhoun.

[graphic]

It must needs have happened, that where the Saxon race went, the principles of law, justice, and freedom, must prevail. These principles, as they existed in England at the beginning of the sixteenth century, were transferred to America, with the Cavaliers, the Pilgrims, and the Quakers, precisely, as to the two first topics, as they existed at home. Private rights were as well secured, and public justice as well awarded here, as there. But they also brought over the aristocratic system, which was upheld by the royal governors, who were the immediate representatives of the crown. The doctrine was imprescriptible, that the fee of all public or unpatented lands was in the crown, and all inhabitants of the realm owed allegiance and fealty to the crown. This doctrine, when applied to the native tribes of America, left them neither

[graphic]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »